Roads – it’s about the Journey, not the Destination

A comment on an RV group on Facebook got me thinking a few days ago. Yes, with me, that can be dangerous 🙂 But in this case it wasn’t – it got me thinking about how it’s almost always been the Journey that’s important, rather than the Destination. Today, I’d like to show you some of the roads that have been important on my journey.

The Facebook comment prompted me to create the meme below in response, and that led me to dig through my photo files so I could write this post. The meme shows the campervan that we rented to explore the North Island of New Zealand in 2008. It’s at Waipiro Beach, a gorgeous beach that’s far off any of the normal tourist paths.

Campervan at Waipiro Beach, New Zealand

A few days ago, I discovered that there are now 146,587 photos on the external drive that I keep the digital files on (1.06 TB of them), and about 30,000 slides in the 11 feet of shelf space where the slides are kept. And that’s after editing, meaning that I’ve shot nearly 300,000 photos. If you like numbers, that’s an average of 14 a day for the 59 years I’ve been taking pictures 🙂

I inherited my Dad’s love of cars, and of The Road. I bought my first motorcycle when I was 14, had a car at 16, and was soon building some pretty extreme custom cars. By the time I was 20, the Journey had taken me to some very interesting places, but not always in good ways.

When you’re 20 years old, have a brand-new 1971 Triumph Spitfire Mk IV and a beautiful girlfriend, The Road beckons quite insistently. We drove from Vancouver to San Francisco and back (about 3,200 km) for one particularly memorable long weekend. The next photo was shot at Merritt, BC.

My brand-new 1971 Triumph Spitfire Mk IV at Merritt, BC
A buddy and I popped down to Tijuana (seen in the next photo) and Ensenada for a day in 1972. That was my first trip outside Canada and the States, and was a cultural shock but a great adventure. We drove down in a former Vancouver City Police paddy wagon that I had turned into a pretty wild “hippy van”.

Tijuana in 1972
On the Mexico drive, we quickly discovered that nobody drove on the freeway, which had toll booths every few miles. The narrow, winding road along the beach was not only free, it was much more interesting.

The freeway between Tijuana and Ensenada in 1972
The adventure of exploring back roads has always been part of my journey. There used to be plenty of great 4×4 roads within a short distance of my various homes in BC’s Fraser Valley. The next photo was shot above Chilliwack.

4x4 road above Chilliwack in 1989
Further in the Chilliwack back country with my daughter in our 1970 Blazer, our second Blazer (the first was a ’75).

4x4 road near Chilliwack in 1989
Getting on Highway 1 and leaving the Fraser Valley took us to other 4×4 roads all over southern BC.

Hwy 1 near Chilliwack, BC
When I was driving a semi-trailer around the Fraser Valley for Overwaitea Foods, I never passed up an opportunity to make long hauls for friends, and did many trips to California and Alberta. The next photo was shot along I-5 in California, heading south in a buddy’s Kenworth to get a load of produce. The slide is discoloured because I fell in a creek with my camera while taking a break on a very hot day 🙂

The view from a Kenworth on I-5 in California in 1989
In 1967, I discovered the incredible adventures available when you begin on very short roads called “runways”. After I bought my own airplane in 1983, those adventures took me further and further afield. The next photo was shot by my Dad in 1987. I was taking off from my aunt’s guest ranch at Glenora, on the Stikine River in northern BC.

Cessna 172 C-GWDM at Glenora, BC
Starting trips by “driving” on paved runways in other people’s planes allowed me to expand the range of those adventures substantially.

I’ve put thousands of miles on in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Italy. The next photo was shot near Paderborn in northern Germany, in October 1991.

Freeways were part of my regular life when I lived in the Vancouver area. I never thought much about them generally, but now, I avoid them whenever possible, much preferring the slower and more interesting side roads. The next photo was shot in Seattle.

I-5 in Seattle
In 1990 I left the world of semis and freeways, and moved to Whitehorse. The roads in my working world suddenly became much more varied and interesting. The next photo was shot on the last trip of my second season driving tour bus. That section of the Alaska Highway along Kluane Lake no longer exists – the road was moved and upgraded a few years ago.

The Alaska Highway along Kluane Lake in 1991
I got stopped for a few hours by a wildfire along the Taylor Highway north of Eagle, Alaska, in 2005. Luckily, my passengers were on their way to Dawson City by boat. By the time I reached the border crossing at Little Gold Creek after the highway re-opened, it was closed. I spent a very cold night in the bus.

Little Gold Creek border crossing - closed
Even the Alaska Highway got too busy for a few years, and it got the point that I really hated having to take the bus down into the Peace River oil and gas district on winter sports charters. The crash of that industry in 2008 solved the busy-highway problem.

Alaska Highway in the Peace River district
One of the roads that I’ve been driving a lot for the past 27 years, both for work and fun, is the South Klondike Highway to Skagway. Even after perhaps 300 trips, I still love it. There are 6,183 photos in my South Klondike Highway folder!

The South Klondike Highway to Skagway
Sometimes, people really upset me, even on the South Klondike Highway. To act this way, this bear has been fed (these people didn’t feed him). Everybody who comes up here needs to understand that “a fed bear is a dead bear”. This photo might have nothing to do with today’s story, but I came across the photo and it is a trigger for me.

A fed bear along the South Klondike Highway
Back to New Zealand, where these photos began. Wandering around the North Island will always remain one of our best vacations ever, I’m sure. That’s partly because Cathy and I got married on the beach at Cathedral Cove a few days into the wander. The next photo was shot from the campervan near East Cape.

Near East Cape of the North Island of New Zealand
On most of the roads we saw in New Zealand, we were in our campervan, but we did take one long day-tour up to Cape Reinga, the furthest-north point of land that’s accessible by road. Among many other places, in the little tour bus, we got to drive for many miles along incredible 90 Mile Beach, a place I might not have taken the campervan. On this tour, we even got our wish to experience a sheep-jam on the road! 🙂

In 2010, we were on a pair of cruises in the Caribbean, and were on one of the first 2 ships to be allowed to dock at Castries, St. Lucia, after the devastation and death brought by Hurricane Tomas just a week before. The tour on the roads that were open on the part of the island that was accessible was shocking, not only because of the damage but because of the way many people live. Getting that sort of perspective is important, I think.

St. Lucia after Hurricane Tomas

St. Lucia after Hurricane Tomas
Now we’re up to my new world – a world of retirement and RVing. The next photo shows the real start of that world, on August 8, 2014. I was on Arizona Highway 10, following the motorhome I had just bought in Phoenix, for delivery in California to save about $1,500 in state taxes.

Arizona Highway 10
I made a rushed trip home with the motorhome, but still saw some incredible country (and made some detours) that we’ll get back to some day not too far away. The next photo was shot along Highway 89 in northern Arizona.

Highway 89 in northern Arizona
The funniest detour I made on that drive wasn’t intentional. I was following my Garmin GPS to Bryce Canyon, Utah, and didn’t question when it said to turn off Route 89 and head north on Johnson Canyon Road. It looked like a reasonable idea at this point, but when the pavement disappeared and cows started to appear along the road, I knew that it was going to take longer than I’d planned on.

Johnson Canyon Road, Utah
When this arch appeared in front of me on Utah Highway 12 en route to Bryce Canyon, I pulled over and thought for a minute about whether or not the motorhome would fit or whether some pieces from the roof would be left on the road. Once I saw other vehicles go through so I could judge the size of the arch, I knew that it was okay 🙂

Natural arch along Utah Highway 12
Although buying the motorhome was intended to eliminate our travel other than by road, we had one more trip already booked. A cruise to Hawaii with friends was a good way to end that sort of travel – for a while, at least. The road in the next photo was on the north shore of Oahu, seen during a circle of the island we made.

I’ve driven the Icefields Parkway many times, but it’s a road that is best seen in a motorhome, especially when you can spend 12 hours with a grizzly. This bear certainly provided one of my best bear experiences ever, and even our cat, Molly, enjoyed it immensely.

Grizzly on the Icefields Parkway
In the motorhome, we generally choose the road less travelled, as we have in any vehicle. So far, the roughest road has been Alaska’s Denali Highway, but my plan for next year is to take it up the Dempster Highway and the new road to Tuktoyaktuk (it opens next week).

Denali Highway, Alaska
Towing a 4×4 Chevy Tracker behind the motorhome allows us to get as far into the back country as we like. The road in the next photo runs to a communications station along the Dempster Highway.

After being with us for 16 years, the Tracker has been replaced by a Jeep Cherokee for Cathy’s daily driving, but still gets plenty of use to get us into the high country around Whitehorse. The next photo was shot on the way down from Mount McIntyre.

Chevy Tracker on the road to Mount McIntyre
I’m going to end this post with a photo that shows you the event that gets me on the road on some winter nights – the aurora borealis, a.k.a. the Northern Lights. The photo was shot along the Alaska Highway about 10 miles from home.

Showing Cathy these photos, our conversation soon turned to New Zealand – we both feel a very strong pull to get back. But, on this cold and snowy day, I have a lot of work to do as soon as I post this.

May the roads on your journey excite and inspire you…


Roads – it’s about the Journey, not the Destination — 14 Comments

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Please keep them coming. The worlds beauty as captured by camera and shared with others is priceless.

  2. Hi Murray:. Really looking forward to your trip report up the Dempster Hwy to Tuk starting at Dawson City so we can re-live it. With the tracker you will have ability to make all kinds of side trips and take hiking day trips, describe road construction, unique geology and wildlife and settlements along the route.

    • I am SO excited about driving to Tuktoyaktuk next summer! I had hoped to get up to the Tuk Road’s official opening party this week, but the ferries have quit running so the only way to get to Inuvik is flying.

  3. Always look forward to seeing what, where your travels take you and yours…enjoyed the early backstory on your younger days (neat little feature on the wheels involved) as well as the NZ adventure. And that new road…how long can you resist?!

    I am glad that I checked back at the original site as I cannot access the blog as I would normally…is there an ongoing problem with WordPress, I am getting a 403 error message on “ExploreNorth Blog”?

    • The home page crashed Saturday morning and I haven’t been able to figure the problem out yet. All 1,042 posts are still okay, thankfully! I was hoping that a new update to the blog operating platform that was offered last night would solve the problem, but now it won’t load. *sigh*

  4. Wonderful post Murray but especially love the photo of the South Klondike to Skagway as well as the Delani park photo. I too, luckily found a way to get back to your blog as I was wondering what was happening….always got “forbidden page” errors which is weird especially when we simply love to follow your road trips. Hang in there. Maureen

  5. Very interesting retrospective on your adventures. Have to say that your older pictures from the 70’s turned out fantastic. I had to check myself in that your opening picture was actually from 71 and not a more modern one.
    It was fun to see a lot of the cars from Tijuana back then as well. Wouldn’t mind that Bel-Air today!
    Actually same goes for your old Blazer!

    • Thanks 🙂 My camera starting 1966 was a very good Pentax Spotmatic, and I almost always shot with Kodachrome 64 and sometimes with Kodachrome 25 – those films do last pretty much forever.

      I certainly wish that I had some of my early vehicles back – that Spitfire and a ’69 Camaro especially! 🙂